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Data Plans with Less Than 1GB Should Be a Thing of the Past

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 10:54am
Ben Munson

Apparently there's still be a market for a 300MB data bucket. Mobidia found that as of January 2013, only 31 percent of 3G smartphone users opt for plans with 1GB or more. Users of 4G smartphones trended much higher in the same research, with 61 percent purchasing 1GB or more.

But the overwhelming shift is toward 4G LTE and supersizing the speed and capacity that comes with it. Legacy 3G networks still have a lot of life to live as fallbacks. But 2G’s demise is imminent. Smartphone users demand data and networks are beefing up to deliver so there’s little sense any longer in dedicating valuable spectrum to EDGE.

Considering the push for gigabytes and the certain doom for networks that can’t keep up, plans measured in megabytes seem like an anomaly. Options with less than 1GB are, at best, starting to look hopelessly outdated. At worst, they look like a slightly less than straightforward cash grab.

The average cellphone user chomped down a little over 800MB per month last year, according to CTIA. Chock that up to careful usage, Wi-Fi savvy or just ambivalence, it might look to the uninitiated like 1GB is still a bit excessive. But most regular users understand it’s better to error on the side of caution.

A 250MB plan on Verizon’s More Everything runs just $15. If all you’re going to do with your phone is email and possibly view a dozen or so webpages a month, it could be right for you. But on the off chance you fall right on the CTIA’s 800MB average predictions, the $15-per-200MB overages with that plan means you’d pay $60 to get 800MB. That makes paying $40 for 1GB at the onset look a lot smarter—especially since with the $15-per-1GB overage on this plan, you could pay for 2GB and still come in under $60.

The proliferation of LTE phones and data-chugging mobile applications like video and music streaming won’t make it any easier to keep the meter under 1GB. The days of paltry 500MB plans serving a purpose are numbered.

Tiny data plans are good for a laugh but all joking aside, it’s time to start the scale at 1GB. Preferably with the pricing staying where it is. By that token, shared data plans should start at 2GB as well.

The potential loss in overage charge revenue could be offset by more confident wireless internet users exploring more ways to put mobile data to use and the rick content that emerges to meet that demand. And it will likely push that national average up to a respectable 1GB.

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